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Communications Engineering Spinouts


1. Metaboards


Our technology, originally developed at the University of Oxford, uses metamaterials to transmit and control magneto inductive waves (MIW) across surfaces.

The first application of the technology enables simple and inexpensive wireless transfer of power and data between electronic devices.



  • No wires or cables
  • Simple and cheap to manufacture
  • No limit to number of connected devices
  • No vulnerable connectors to disconnect or mis-align
  • Extremely robust and tolerant to abuse (e.g. submersion in water)
  • Weatherproof data connections
  • Can be woven into flexible materials
  • Integrated into furniture, walls, flooring
  • Frequency tuneable and safe



OXEMS was spun out by Isis Innovation, Oxford University's technology transfer company, to produce solutions for the utilities sector. As the utility infrastructure ages, metal pipes, such as cast iron gas mains, are rapidly being replaced with plastic ones. However, buried plastic pipes are notoriously difficult to detect using current methods which are expensive, inefficient and in many cases don't produce the quick and accurate results required.

The new tag and sensor technology OXEMS was developed at the Department of Engineering Science and uses an extension of radio frequency identification and detection (RFID) and passive low frequency tags to give buried plastic pipe a unique frequency domain ID, rather like a 'barcode'. The pipe's location and this code which provides immediate information on the type of service carried as well as providing access to remote data related to the asset, can be detected from the surface using a new locator which OXEMS is developing.

It is estimated that there are over 4 million kilometres of buried pipes and cables in the UK, with around 100,000km of cast iron gas main considered at high risk of failure and in need of replacement. It is intended that the new technology will address all kinds of buried infrastructure, including water, gas, power, and telecommunications, and could reduce the costs to utilities of street works by at least 40%.

The new system is designed to be low cost to install, robust and requiring very low maintenance. Crucially it also performs well in wet conditions enabling the location essential for pinpointing failed pipes responsible for water leaks.

Professor David Edwards of the Department of Engineering Science led the founding team comprising Dr Harvey Burd, Dr Christopher Stevens and Dr Tong Hao that developed the technology at Oxford University.

Professor David Edwards said: ‘We originally started working on the problems industry faced in this area as part of the ‘Mapping the Underworld’ call from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which led to the domain ‘barcode’ approach. Our previous work in underwater pipe detection enabled us to model the response from wet environments and develop the OXEMS technology based on a long history of working on long range detection and positioning systems.’

Kevin Gooding, CEO of OXEMS, said: ‘One of the major benefits to utility firms of the OXEMS solution is that the ‘intelligent’ part of the technology is on the surface, so that the buried tagging units are simple, leading to significantly reduced unit costs as well as increased reliability and longevity. It also means less street work disruption for the rest of us, with no more ‘dry holes’ where a contractor digs a hole but finds nothing.’

Tom Hockaday, Managing Director of Isis Innovation said: "We are delighted to have worked with the OXEMS team, to develop the business plan, help attract investment and senior management to launch this exciting new technology business."



Oxford Electromagnetic Acoustic Imaging (OxEMA) is a healthcare imaging technology offering superior diagnostic power to conventional ultrasound systems and MRI-like images.

Recent results from the Engineering Science Department of the University of Oxford demonstrate that OxEMA clearly identifies artificially introduced abnormalities (mimicking a stone and tumours), in a sheep’s kidney, which are not clearly differentiated using conventional ultrasound.

OxEMA’s technology uses a unique, innovative combination of electro-magnetic and acoustic waves in order to create medical images at a cost comparable to ultrasound. The benefits of this are much greater clarity of image and unparalleled tissue-type characterization in this price bracket. The technology is non-ionising and thus offers a clear benefit over x-ray and CT scanning. The technology provides the ability to discriminate different electrical and mechanical properties of a tissue in a way not available from any current imaging technology which will potentially radically improve the identification of tumours and any other anomalous tissue characteristics. The imaging capabilities will initially be made available as an additional feature on a system which operates with a similar user interface to current ultrasound machines.

OxEMA has the potential to enable better, earlier diagnosis of numerous conditions and tumours, including some or all of breast, liver, kidney and thyroid cancer, as well as having applications in orthopaedics and other clinical areas. The technology provides an automatically registered, overlaid EMA image on top of the ultrasound image, providing the ability to simultaneously assess the electrical and mechanical properties of the same piece of tissue, with considerably improved diagnostic power.

Professor David Edwards, who leads this research at the Department of Engineering Science, said, “OxEMA has the capability of producing MRI-like images because it utilises the electromagnetic properties of tissue as the contrast mechanism. However, in combination with ultrasound we can achieve images of high spatial resolution without the use of large expensive magnets, keeping the size and cost of the system much lower than MRI. It also has the important advantage of being a non-ionising technology reducing the radiation exposure for the patient. Using the electromagnetic signature of the identified targets, the technology has the potential to be used in the classification and identification of specific tissue types. We are now working towards building an imaging system that can be used in a clinical environment”.

OxEMA is a proposed Isis spin-out company seeking investment to take patented OxEMA technology through its initial critical clinical, engineering and regulatory stages. OxEMA is envisaged to have potential non-medical applications which make it even more attractive.


Industry and investor enquiries to:

Dr Rakesh Roshan, Project Team Manager
Isis Innovation Ltd.
T +44 (0)1865 280853


Media enquiries to:

Simon Gray, Marketing & Communications Manager
Isis Innovation Ltd.
T +44 (0)1865 614428